Body image is a deeply sensitive and personal issue that affects people of all ages and genders.
At this time of the year, heading into the spring break season that leads into summer, we will start hearing statements like this from our clients:
- I can’t go on that beach vacation; I’ll have to wear a bathing suit.
- I know if I cut out carbs and sugar, I’ll feel better in my shorts.
- If I try that diet for 2 weeks and really stick to it, I should be able to lose enough weight to get into my old clothes…. Then I can really enjoy my vacation.
This list goes on and on… and as clinicians, we feel for you. At the same time, it is frustrating because we know the world is full of diet culture messages that are never ending and never realistic either!
They have sunk into our brains so much that the only thing we can see, and think, is that our bodies need to be perfect and thin and sadly, these messages are being passed on to yet another generation.
It’s why we just had “National Eating Disorders Awareness Week” from February 27th to March 5th. It helps bring attention to the harm eating disorders and diet culture are causing in our world. The harm people are suffering because of the messages out there.
But there is hope – there is always hope.
It might mean trying something different, shifting your mindset, and embracing a new way. There are simple steps we can take to feel better about our bodies. In this article below, I am sharing 5 ways to improve your body image – even if we don’t “love” our bodies all the time, or even “like” them, they are still our bodies to take care of.
There was a time once, perhaps as a child, that you didn’t think twice about your body, or what other people’s bodies looked like!
… It was was pure freedom and bliss in who you were,
how you looked and felt about yourself.
You moved around in the world and ate freely (or intuitively) because you didn’t worry about what other thought about you and your body! But now, as you age, diet culture limitations and beliefs take over your mind!
We need to get back to this place of freedom with ourselves and with our bodies. That is how the clinicians at Erica Leon Nutrition & Associates work. We practice from a weight-inclusive, Health at Every Size® (HAES) philosophy. This means we do not focus on weight loss as a goal; rather we focus on the habits you choose to work on that will help YOU feel more comfortable in your body.
We specialize in helping people learn to eat intuitively, being fully present and mindful of their choices. We help guide you to increased confidence in making food decisions, whether for you, your child or other family member(s).
There are five things you can do right now to become more comfortable in your body – no matter its shape or size – see health improvements and participate in life!
Here are 5 tips to improve your body image, which can improve both physical and mental health!
1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Throw the Ideal of the thin, perfect body out the window. Thin does not mean healthy! Comparing ourselves to others is a sure-fire way to feel bad about our bodies and ourselves. Remember that everyone’s body is unique, and there is no such thing as a perfect body. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own journey and progress.
Set realistic goals and achievable goals that are personal to you and celebrate your achievements along the way. Don’t focus on weight loss as a final goal; Our goal can be to feel better and also to participate in life! Don’t wait until tomorrow to put on a bathing suit and swim with your children.
2. Wear clothes that FIT your body today.
Find clothing that fits you right now. Stop holding on to clothes from years ago, or clothes that never had the tags off in the first place because you did not get down to that dream weight.
Those clothes in your closet speak to you – and their words are often not kind. If your size changes more often, consider storing ill-fitting clothing out of sight so they are out of sight and out of your mind!
While we don’t all have a budget to go and shop for new clothing, you can try thrift shops or even hold clothing swaps with friends.
Make sure that your underwear fits properly and doesn’t pinch! For women, it’s very important to have a bra that fits properly. You can have yourself measured properly in a store that sells bras. There is NOTHING worse than feeling that your undergarments do not fit you well. So many of my clients have spoken of how freeing it was to wear clothes that fit and made them feel good about their body.
3. Focus on what your body can do for movement that feels good to you.
Instead of fixating on what your body looks like, try focusing on what it can do. Celebrate your body for its strengths and abilities. Engage in activities that make you feel good and help you appreciate your body. For instance, go for a walk, practice yoga, or dance to your favorite tunes. These activities can help you feel more connected to your body and improve your overall mood. Pay attention to your body and the parts that feel comfortable or uncomfortable. If your back bothers you, consider a gentle stretch, yoga or even massage. Think about trying meditation as a way of tuning into your body.
4. Surround yourself with body-positive messages.
When your surroundings have that vibe of positivity, it can significantly impact your body image. Do your best to avoid the media perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards. Step back from people and situations that make you feel bad about yourself. Seek out body-positive content. Follow social media accounts that promote body acceptance and self-love. Engage with friends and family who encourage you and make you feel good about yourself.
5. Prioritize your own self-care.
Taking care of yourself can do wonders for your body image. Too often we put ourselves after others when we need to make time for ourselves so that we can be at our best for others. Self-care practices such as getting enough sleep and engaging in relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing, can help you feel more connected to your body and improve your overall sense of well-being.
If negative body image is affecting your daily life, consider seeking professional help. There are many professionals who can help you work through your feelings and develop strategies to improve your body image. They can also provide additional support and resources to help you on your journey to self-acceptance and having a positive body image that sticks with you for life.
Those are the 5 steps that will get you started on the path to improving your body image and loving yourself again!
Trying to make your body fit into clothing and spaces that don’t fit it is not attainable, not sustainable, and it’s also not good for you. The bottom line – you can improve your body image by taking care of the body you own in the here and now. Take care of it, move it, and then fuel it!
When you take the time to improve your body image and put in the work to make those mindset changes, you will notice a difference in yourself and your life too!
By avoiding comparisons, focusing on what your body can do, wearing clothes that fit and feel good, surrounding yourself with positivity, practicing self-care, and seeking help, if necessary, you can develop a healthier and more positive relationship with your body.
Most importantly and please remember this —
Are you ready to make peace with food and your body image for good?
Download and read our FREE Intuitive Eating Guide, the 3 Steps to Making Peace with Food and Your Body Image.
This guide is for you if you are…
- Wanting to avoid passing on your eating struggles and issues to your children.
- Always thinking about food as either “Good” or “Bad”.
- Feeling ashamed for doing everything “perfectly,” only to “blow it” by overeating.
*Studies Supporting the Lack of Evidence for Effective and Sustained Weight Loss:
- Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Mann T1, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, Lew AM, Samuels B, Chatman J.
- Dieting Does Not Work , UCLA Researchers Report
- Long-term Effects of Dieting: Is Weight Loss Related to Health? A. Janet Tomiyama, Britt Ahlstrom, and Traci Mann
- How effective are traditional dietary and exercise interventions for weight loss? Miller, WC
- Methods for voluntary weight loss and control. NIH Technology Assessment Conference Panel.
- Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor
- The downside of weight loss: Realistic intervention in body-weight trajectory
- Intentional Weight Loss and Longevity in Overweight Patients with Type 2 Diabetes
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
Erica is a highly sensitive nutrition therapist who takes the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, she will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!
Download our Free Intuitive Eating Guide and get off that Diet Roller Coaster for good!